Friday, September 12, 2008

That's Claghorn, Son!

"That's...I say, that's Claghorn, son! Not Leghorn! Look at me when I'm talkin' to ya, boy!"

The entertainment and publishing world is packed floor to ceiling with sad tales of creative folk who were cheated out of their works by those less talented, but far more ruthless.

By now everyone knows how comics creators such as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Superman), Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four, Ir
on Man, Hulk, Avengers, X-Men, etc.), Steve Ditko (Spider-Man, Dr. Strange) were cheated out of the comic book characters they concocted while others turned unimaginable profits from the sweat of their brows.

And, of course, the film industry has its share of these kinds of stories, too. One such tale is that of Kenny Delmar. Delmar was principally known in the late 40s and early 50s as a radio actor and announcer, working mainly for the Fred Allen Show. And Delmar's stroke of genius as an actor and performer was his creation of the bombastic southern gentleman, Senator Beauregard Claghorn.

Delmar, performing as Claghorn came up with a signal accent, voice, demeanor, and repertoire which made him imminently identifiable and irresistably imitable. Anyone and everyone had to do their own versions of Delmar's Senator Claghorn.
In fact, the character was so popular and so easy to do that Warner Brothers soon purloined the Senator in rooster's clothing with voice by Mel Blanc and reintroduced him as Foghorn Leghorn, which is the way most of the public today knows the voice and mannerisms of Delmar's wacky southern senator.

The moral crime in all of this is that, after a time, Warner Brothers trademarked the Foghorn Leghorn character, mannerisms and all, and when Delmar tried to do his Claghorn character thereafter, he was barred from doing so without the express permission of Warner Brothers!

This went on for a number of years. Here was the actor Kenny Delmar who had created the character, and yet he was not allowed to use it. This had to be a major disappointment for Kenny Delmar in the years after radio comedy faded away and he found himself unable to cash in on his most well-known creation.
Delmar struggled with the big corporation for a long time before he was finally able to start using that voice and character again.

When, in 1960, he was allowed to cash in on the person
a, he was heard as the voice of the hound dog, The Hunter in the cartoon series of that name which appeared on the cartoon show King Leonardo and Friends.

So the next time you hear the Foghorn Leghorn voice, or anyone imitating it, be aware that its creator was not a major motion picture studio, that it was not Mel Blanc. It was, in fact, a fine performer whose name was Kenny Delmar.


dogboy443 said...

Thanks for the education...son.

HemlockMan said...

You are--I say--you are welcome.

Mark Martin said...

Is there no limit to the NERVE of some people? I never heard that story, but sadly it does not surprise me.

HemlockMan said...

Yep. It's hard to find anyone who even has heard the name of Kenny Delmar. For a while, the most popular comedian in the USA.

Unknown said...

Ah, yes, fond memories of The Hunter and Fred Allen's 'Allen's Alley'

James Robert Smith said...

Great stuff! Most people don't know what they've missed.

Henry R. Kujawa said...

Growing up, I had no idea HOW MANY cartoon characters were inspired by real people, or by earlier TV series. (When I first saw THE HONEYMOONERS-- revived in the mid-60s as half of THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW-- it slowly dawned on me it reminded me a bit of THE FLINTSTONES, which had ended a year or so earlier. Little did I know...)

And of course, in comic-books, I'm finding MORE AND MORE old characters who were inspired by SPECIFIC actors that most kids these days-- and most of the artists drawing them as well-- have never heard of. But if you go back to the original artist who created the characters, and look at what was around at that time-- OR MUCH EARLIER-- it's amazing what you might find. And a LOT of this is disguised by "cartoony" styles, and dozens of other artists who followed, none of whom followed "the model".

Just ONE minor example-- the Steve Ditko SPIDER-MAN villain, "The Scorpion"-- formerly CROOKED private eye "Max Gargan"-- was, in ONE panel, an absolute DEAD RINGER for Ralph Meeker-- who played the crooked SCUMBALL version of "Mike Hammer" in the viscious, hateful movie "KISS ME DEADLY".

I believe Meeker-- who also played a number of "unstable army types"-- was ALSO Jack Kirby's model for NICK FURY, my #1 favorite Marvel character (but only in the 60s-- NOBODY since his original series was cancelled has ever written him right. NOBODY.)

James Robert Smith said...

That's quite possible. I never made the Scorpion/Meeker connection.